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Seiko Hashimoto named Tokyo Olympic president

Seiko Hashimoto

Japan’s Minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Seiko Hashimoto speaks during a video meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on September 24, 2020. (Photo by Du Xiaoyi / various sources / AFP) (Photo by DU XIAOYI/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

TOKYO — Seiko Hashimoto appeared in seven Olympics — four Winter Olympics and three Summer Olympics. According to Olympedia‘s Bill Mallon, her seven appearances is the most by any “multi-season” athlete in the Games.

Hashimoto made even more history on Thursday in Japan, where women are still rare in the boardrooms and positions of political power.

The 56-year-old Hashimoto was named president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee after a meeting of its executive board, which is 80% male. She replaces 83-year-old Yoshiro Mori, a former Japanese prime minister who was forced to resign last week after making sexist comments about women.

Essentially, he said women talk too much.

“Now I’m here to return what I owe as an athlete and to return back what I received,” she told the board, speaking through an interpreter in Japanese.

Hashimoto had been serving as the Olympic minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. She also held a portfolio dealing with gender equality and women’s empowerment. She said she would be replaced as Olympic minister by Tamayo Marukawa.

She brought up the issue of gender speaking to the nearly all-male audience. Although the leader is now a woman, the issue of gender inequity in Japan remains.

“As the background to my selection, I understand that there is a gender-parity related factor,” she said. She said she hoped to work on the issue but was not specific.

Hashimoto competed in three Summer Olympics (’88, ‘92 and ’96) in cycling and in four Winter Olympics (’84, ’88, ‘92 and ’94) in speed skating. She won a bronze medal — her only medal — in the 1500m in Albertville in 1992.

The new president is tied to the Olympics in many ways. She was born in Hokkaido in northern Japan just five days before the Opening Ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Games. Her name “Seiko” comes from “seika,“which translates as Olympic Flame in English.

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